How to Remove a Palm Tree

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Eventually, you may need to remove a palm tree from your landscape.
Image Credit: borchee/E+/GettyImages

When caring for palm trees on your property, it's also important to understand how to remove them. For example, if you have a coconut palm (​Cocos​ ​nucifera​, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12) growing in your yard, you may need to know how to prune it to a more appropriate size or shape, transplant it to a new location or even get rid of it completely. Following the right procedures and safety tips will help ensure you can remove a palm tree effectively and safely.

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Pruning Palm Trees

Before you make the decision to fully remove your palm tree, it can be worth trimming it back to properly assess the plant's size. As palm plants grow, they shed their old leaves from the stem, giving the plant its distinctive scarred appearance. Usually, the dead leaves will drop naturally, but you can cut back any brown growth or leaves hanging below a 90-degree angle using a pole saw. Avoid damaging the trunk, as this can allow lethal trunk rot to take hold.

You may also wish to remove any flowering stalks from your coconut palm to prevent fruit growth, as coconuts are heavy and can be hazardous if they fall out of your tree. Removing excess dead leaves from your palm before a storm or hurricane can also be a good safety measure.

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Transplanting Palm Trees

If you wish to remove your palm tree without killing the plant, uprooting it to transplant may be an option. If your palm is small, you may be able to do this yourself, but if it's large, you'll need special equipment, and it may be better to hire a professional arborist.

Warmer weather is the best time to transplant palms, so wait until spring or early summer. You should remove around half of the lower crown of leaves and tie up the rest. You'll then need to dig out the root ball of your palm. This will extend at least a shovel's width from the stem, but for certain palm varieties, it can span up to 2 feet in diameter. Larger root balls will make for easier reestablishment of your palm but will make the transplanting process much more cumbersome.

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Keep the root ball in shade and the remainder of your palm plant moist during the transplantation. You should aim to replant your palm as soon as possible to help ensure it survives the move.

Removing Palm Trees

Palms can have very long lives, and sometimes, they may need to be cut short to make space for something different. If you have a well-established palm tree, it's likely that you'll need to call in a professional for safe removal.

Removing palm trees can be as simple as cutting them at the base. Without foliage, the palm will be without a food source and will die back over time. You may be able to speed up the process by adding stump remover to the felled palm tree.

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Safety Tips for Felling Palms

If you're trying to remove a large palm tree, safety should be your number one priority. A large tree can cause massive damage to property and can injure people when falling if the felling is not properly planned and executed. Hiring a professional is definitely the safest route, particularly if your palm tree is close to buildings, power lines or other trees you don't wish to remove.

You should always remove as much excess growth as possible before beginning your palm felling. You should also plan and clear two escape paths to ensure you don't get trapped. You can then make your back cut and undercut using a chain saw. Make sure you're wearing appropriate safety gear too. You should wear a hard hat, safety gloves, and eye and ear protection whenever you're operating a chain saw.

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